Gorkhatimes

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New council likely for Darjeeling

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 13, 2009

KOLKATA: The state government, at Tuesday’s tripartite meeting, accepted Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s (GJM)
demand that the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) be liquidated. But it appears to have a plan to form another
council with more financial and other powers than the existing council.

State home secretary Ardhendu Sen indicated this on Wednesday. “They realize that the demand for Gorkhaland is something that will not become a reality tomorrow. So, they are looking for options that will enable them to get greater power to run the Hills and help in more development work till then,” he said.

Chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said the state government has already made it clear that the demands made by GJM for better facilities in the Hills could be discussed before the demand for a separate state came up. The state government would soon send two secretaries to Darjeeling to discuss the utilization of funds.

But it is learnt that the feeling in the Hills is that if a new council with greater powers is accepted by GJM, it could just be old wine in new bottle. People feel that the biggest demand of the Hills residents a separate state of Gorkhaland, an emotive and explosive issue, has been side-stepped. Whatever extra power a new council is given, it cannot be a substitute to a separate state. And, such a council would run into similar problems that the existing DGHC has faced in the past.

There is also considerable confusion as to what kind of council it would be. The feeling in official circles in Kolkata is that such a council would not be based on any existing model. Rather, it would help more in development work, progress of the area and something “that will be better than DGHC”.

The existing DGHC is under a state Act. Observers point out that the other existing alternative model for autonomous councils is under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which can be formed only under a central Act. But GJM has already made it clear that the Hills would not be brought under the purview of the Sixth schedule. The party is also unlikely to accept another council under a state Act. In that case, the Centre might have to work out a new formula for an autonomous council that would be acceptable for the hills of Darjeeling. But, this is also likely to involve a constitutional amendment, that is a difficult and time-consuming process.

Source:The Times Of India

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